Burning Down the House

For several months now, there have been a lot of memes and jokes about what 2020 is going to throw at us next. Things got off to a bad start with a fast-spreading pandemic followed by a global recession and then murder hornets. MURDER HORNETS. However, I didn’t expect the U.S. to erupt into widespread rioting.

As a white Canadian citizen, I have been very lucky in many ways. My education wasn’t prohibitively expensive; access to universal healthcare ensured that a lifetime of health problems, specialists, diagnostic tests, and surgery didn’t bankrupt me or my family;  Canadian democracy, for all its flaws, is still pretty strong (knock on wood); and when COVID-19 hit, the federal government kept the thumb-twiddling to a minimum.

Now that the weather is warm and my windows are wide open, I can hear how quiet Toronto is on this fine pandemic evening, and it makes the chaos ripping through American cities seem almost surreal.

Make no mistake, Canada is far from being some egalitarian heaven where all the different ethnic groups come together to braid daisies into each other’s hair and hold hands as they skip through the meadows singing. Maybe we’ll get there one day, but right now we have some shit to work through. I just hope we can learn from America’s disastrous failures to deal with their own historical bullshit.

It’s hard to escape the images coming out of the States in the last few weeks. Earlier this month we all got an eyeful of a good old-fashioned lynching when the video of Ahmaud Arbery’s death spread widely across the internet, a video that (i) the cops received during their initial investigation and that (b) should have resulted in the immediate arrests of at least three people. Then there was the entitled white princess who knowingly and deliberately put a Black man in danger of police violence because he asked her to <gasp> leash her dog. Meanwhile, she blatantly lied to the 911 operator and dragged that poor dog around by the collar all while she was being recorded. A brilliant ball of love and sunshine, that one. (Now that she’s lost her job and her dog and everyone knows who she is, I’m sure she wishes the Earth would just open up and swallow her. Frankly, I wish it would, too.) And now multiple large American cities are in crisis after George Floyd died at the hands of a crooked cop who apparently has a record of using unjustified force.

There are a whole lot of Americans who are just fucking done with the racism and police brutality that are endemic in their society. No one should have to fear for their lives because of the colour of their skin (or the name of their god, or their gender, etc.). Of course the police reaction is to crack down, even using vehicles to ram protesters and apparently macing kids. (What the actual fuck…?) As much as the cops hate having their bad behaviour publicized, nothing stops them from shooting pepper bullets at journalists without warning or simply arresting journalists without informing them of the reasons for the arrest, even when they’re being recorded.

I don’t even want to hear the whole not-all-cops spiel. Whether it’s 100% of cops or 1% is irrelevant — it shouldn’t happen. EVER. Nor should it be enabled by the prosecutors and politicians who routinely make sure this violence is swept under the rug. As if you could hide Mount Fucking Everest under an elaborate design and plush handwoven pile. Sorry, guys — your crevasse is showing.

Of course, I’m writing this while I sit safe in my apartment, watching the world burn from a distance. There’s not much I can do except bear witness and show support.

The machine is broken. Rage on, my friends.

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